Apple's removing the 3.5mm headphone jack. Luckily, converting wired headphones to wireless is easy with Bluetooth adapters.

The rumors about the upcoming iPhone 7 have been confirmed. It seems our beloved 3.5mm jack will be gone on the next iPhone iteration being released in September.

Maybe you are getting annoyed with cables but don't want to shell out the cash for Bluetooth headphones or earbuds. Perhaps you already paid a pretty penny for some quality headphones and would hate to need to buy a new set just for wireless audio.

Fear not—the solution is here.

 

Bluetooth Adapters and You

These little tech marvels have been around for a while, but will never be needed so badly as after the release of the new iPhone.

Though I’m an Android user, I personally have used Bluetooth adapters for years as a convenient way to listen to audio around my house while relaxing on my bed—without disturbing the house with speakers. This has proven helpful many a time in my dorm room, too. I have also used them as a convenient, cheap way to turn custom speaker projects wireless. It's also great just to be able to quickly swap the listening device from speakers to headphones and back in seconds without ever disconnecting on my phone.

All that aside, though, the iPhone 7 leaves you with little choice if you want to buy it—go wireless or go niche. Either you use special thunderbolt/USB-C headphones that will be useless with any other device besides the iPhone 7 (at least, for now), or you use Bluetooth wireless headphones which still work with almost any laptop or smartphone, smart TV, and most other online devices.

 

Rendering of the USB Type-C connector. Image courtesy of Andreas Pietzowski via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Using a Bluetooth adapter, you get the best of both worlds. You can always fall back on the truly universal stereo jack or enjoy the benefits of wireless streaming from all smart devices.

These adapters mostly work the same as any Bluetooth speaker you may have used, but the audio signal goes to whatever you plug it into. In fact, these adapters are often nearly identical to those found in wireless speakers and headphones and may be identified as such by a computer or smartphone.

Almost all have a Bluetooth range of 10 meters, but with the upcoming Bluetooth 4.2, that range may extend to 20 meters. Plus, Bluetooth 4.2 will enable better streaming protocols, which means true high quality, high bandwidth streaming—something audiophiles have complained that current Bluetooth 4.0 and 4.1 is missing. That said, Bluetooth 4.0 and 3.0 provide good enough quality that almost nobody can notice a difference between plugged in and wireless without super high-end listening devices.

 

Make all of these more useful!  

 

It is important to note that Bluetooth adapters can be receivers (Rx), transmitters (Tx), or switch between the two. All those which I’ll list below are just receivers, as the idea is that you broadcast audio from a transmitter in your phone, computer, or other smart device. If you shop for ones I didn’t mention, just make sure you’re buying a receiver.

 

A Brief List of Options

My spreadsheet used for direct comparison and with which I created my list can be viewed here

  • "Plug-in" adapters have no battery onboard and instead must be powered via 5V from a USB cable constantly. The Logitech adapter and Bose adapter both are like this, and also both come with RCA cable outputs or adapters as this is common for home theater setups. 
  • All adapters meant for car use come with 3.5mm male-male patch cables and/or short connectors. All those meant for use with speakers come with patch cables as well, and often include RCA adapters too. 
  • The control difference between the Mpow/Taotronics design and Antec/Jumble is that the former have three buttons while the latter have five. Long presses on the +/- buttons of the former are used for next/prev, which is less convenient. Dedicated track controls are provided on the latter, which I think is a big plus if you want to use these for headphones. 
  • All marked with "None" for controls require all volume and track control to be done from the audio streaming source. All the adapters have at least one multifunction button for power/pairing, like any Bluetooth speaker.  This may be a pro or a con, depending on how you use it.

 

Without further ado, here are nine options for adapting your existing headphones for use with the new iPhone (without buying USB Type-C replacements):

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Mpow Streambot
Uses - Car
Bluetooth Version - 4.0
Battery life, hrs - 10
Controls - Play/Pause, -/Prev, +/Next
Reviews - 4140
Notes - Mine never worked well, but many reviews say it's fine. Best seller.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Etekcity Roverbeats Unify
Uses - Car, Speaker
Bluetooth Version - 4.0
Battery life, hrs - 10
Controls - None
Features - NFC Pairing, Speakerphone
Reviews - 931
Notes - NFC is awesome, automatic pairing to devices when turned on. Very reliable. Bit beefy for travel.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Logitech Bluetooth Adapter
Uses - Home Theater
Bluetooth Version - 3.0
Battery life, hrs - Plug-in (USB)
Controls - None
Features - Extended range, 4 device multi pair
Reviews - 2159
Notes - Can pair simultaneously with several devices. Great quality, reliability.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Esinkin copy of Logitech
Uses - Home Theater
Bluetooth Version - 3.0
Battery life, hrs - Plug-in (USB)
Controls - None
Features - Extended range, 4 device multi pair
Reviews - 458
Notes - Logitech used to be $45, I got this instead. Seems to work just as well, looks identical too.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Bose Bluetooth Audio Adapter
Uses - HiFi Home theater
Bluetooth Version - ?? (probably 4.0)
Battery life, hrs - Plug-in (USB)
Controls - None
Features - 8 device pairing, 3 simultaneous
Reviews - 535
Notes - Probably the best audio quality on this list. The only item on the list that costs more than $25. No portability.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Mpow Mini Streambot
Uses - Car, Headphones
Bluetooth Version - 3.0
Battery life, hrs - 8
Controls - Play/Pause, -/Prev, +/Next
Features - Multi pairing (2 devices)
Reviews - 2701
Notes - Reviews say this does work for headphones and other devices. Small and convenient. 

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

TaoTronics Portable BT Adapter
Uses - Car, Headphones
Bluetooth Version - 4.0
Battery life, hrs - 7
Controls - Play/Pause, -/Prev, +/Next
Features - Hands-free calling
Reviews - 1721
Notes - Mic for hands-free and BT 4.0. Otherwise, like MPOW. I have an older version and it's great.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Antec Smart Bean Portable BT Adapter
Uses - Headphones, Speaker
Bluetooth Version - 3.0
Battery life, hrs - 6-8
Controls - Play/Pause, Volume, Prev/Next
Features - Dedicated controls, hands-free
Reviews - 144
Notes - Clearly designed for headphone use. Easy to use, has a shirt clip. Colors. Recognizable brand.

 

Image courtesy of Amazon.

 

Jumbl Bluetooth 4.0 Portable Adapter
Uses - Headphones, Speaker
Bluetooth Version - 4.0
Battery life, hrs - 8
Controls - Play/Pause, Volume, Prev/Next
Features - Dedicated controls, hands-free
Reviews - 411
Notes - Like above but smaller. Colors. More reviews. Better battery life too.

 

Conclusion

I tested those which I bought using a decent set of speakers (Logitech Z333) and relatively good headphones (HyperX Cloud Headset) which are probably more sensitive to changes in audio quality than what 90% of people use. I couldn't notice a difference, aside from occasional lag, between plugged-in and Bluetooth.

I also tested streaming from my phone while moving around a good distance away to check reliability over distance—the Unify greatly exceeded my expectations there, as did the Logitech knockoff. For those I didn't test, judge for yourself based on reviews. This is why I included only models with over 100 reviews averaging 4 stars or better. Single testimonials, even from me, can't tell you the full story. 

A pre-emptive note to audiophiles: Yes, I am aware that Bluetooth isn't up to snuff with wired connections in terms of audio quality. I also am aware that digital audio has better fidelity than analog. Most people don't care and even fewer can tell the difference. This is about using 99% of audio devices in a new way. 

Whether you want to add Bluetooth streaming to a device that lacks it or just wish to avoid dealing with cables all the time, these wireless adapters can help. Very few people I talked to in the course of compiling this list knew they even existed, so I feel it makes sense to spread the word.

Especially since every news outlet whining about the criminal negligence of leaving out a headphone jack on the iPhone 7 has failed to mention that instead of spending $80 on USB-C headphones, you can just use these to upgrade your existing headphones for far less. 

 

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